Feb 8, 2024 - Education

Few Oregon community college grads continue education

Illustration of a mortarboard with a downward trending arrow for a tassle.

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Enrollment is on the rise again at Portland Community College, but a new study shows that only 11% of community college students in Oregon transfer and earn bachelor's degrees within six years.

Why it matters: The Oregon Department of Education asserts that community colleges are a pathway to four-year degrees. Oregon, however, ranks 32nd nationally in the report published Wednesday by the Aspen Institute's College Excellence Program.

Of note: The report said rates of transfer and bachelor's degree completion "are low overall, but lower on average for low-income, older, male, Black and Hispanic students."

  • Oregon had 17 community colleges with 84,740 total students in 2022.
  • The transfer and degree completion rates in Oregon are 10% for low-income students and for Black students and 12% for Hispanic students.
  • The national rate is 16%.

Yes, but: The report shows that no state even has a quarter of its community college students attaining bachelor's degrees, said Elizabeth Cox Brand, the director of the Student Success Center at the Oregon Community College Association (OCCA), referring to the report.

  • She said in an email to Axios that the state's Transfer Council is targeting students who need help moving forward. "It's a challenge, but one that's not insurmountable."

What's next: One of the report's authors, Tatiana Velasco, an economist and research associate at the Teachers College of Columbia University, told Axios that she knows from previous studies that part of the problem is students figuring out how to transfer credits.

What they're saying: "There are a lot of moving pieces, and advising for these students needs to be better thought out, to provide a path to a bachelor's degree," Velasco said.

The Bottom line: James Hill, a spokesperson for Portland Community College, told Axios via email the school is planning to get additional information on obstacles students may be encountering.

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